The day after Mr. Gutman’s appointment, a coalition of advocacy groups issued a challenge to the mayor and Mr. Gutman, calling on them to build 30 more miles of bus lanes by the end of the year. Last year, the city built nearly 17 miles of bus lanes, and city officials said they would continue expanding the lanes this year.
Mr. Gutman is not the first commissioner to be appointed from outside the transportation world. Iris Weinshall was not a transportation expert when then-Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani tapped her for the job in 2000, though she had extensive government experience.
Ms. Weinshall, now the chief operating officer of The New York Public Library, went on to lead the transportation agency for nearly seven years, including under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. She oversaw efforts to improve pedestrian safety, including on Queens Boulevard, one of the city’s most dangerous roads, and reduce congestion in the heart of Manhattan, among other initiatives.
Mr. Gutman, who will be paid 11 months of a $243,171 annual salary, said yes to the job when the mayor called because he believed that he could make a difference.
“In a certain sense, every New Yorker is a transportation expert,” he said. “The reason is that transportation issues touch upon everything we do in the city.”
His first order of business was pledging to install 10,000 new bike parking racks in the next two years. Cycling advocates have complained that a shortage of bike parking has discouraged bike riding, led to bike thefts and disproportionately hurt poor and minority neighborhoods with fewer bike resources and infrastructure.
“More bike parking is long overdue,” said Danny Harris, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group. “And announcing 10,000 new racks on day one is a positive sign that the new commissioner will support the ongoing bike boom.”
Mr. Gutman promised more to come.
“If we’re going to seize this opportunity,” he said, “we’re all going to have to work together.”